Wildlife: Cackling Goose

This was a brief count concentrated on the Highland side. It occurred following our cleaning and winterizing of the Purple Martin nest box tower located between Highland 4 and 5. Successful nesting by a pair of Tree Swallows was confirmed to have occurred in the tower. We hope to see Purple Martins showing interest and nesting there next spring.

Total Birds Identified:  162
Total Species Identified:  16
New Species Added:  1  (Cackling Goose – The total is now at 88 species)

In 2004, extensive ornithological studies of Canada Geese concluded in the “splitting” of this iconic and wide-spread North American bird into two separate and distinct species. The studies included comparisons of preferred nesting locations, wintering locations, differences in morphological features, and of genetic makeup within the many subspecies of what we have always known as the Canada Goose. In general, the larger subspecies were shown to be genetically and behaviourally different from the smaller subspecies. The result is a newly recognized bird, the Cackling Goose (Anser hutchinsii). The larger forms continue to be named Canada Goose (Anser canadensis). On October 26, a single small goose landed on Highland 4 pond along with 4 larger Canada Geese. Telescopic views and photos were obtained to confirm the smaller bird to be a Cackling Goose. This becomes the 88th bird species officially identified on or over the golf course. Watch and listen for more of these smaller birds to appear here. To the trained ear, the “honking” call of the Canada Goose is recognizably different from the consistently high-pitched “yelping” of the Cackling Goose, although be careful on this point. The Cackling Goose nests primarily on the Arctic tundra of Alaska and western Canada, while the Canada Goose nests broadly over much of the rest of Canada and the northern USA, preferring marshes, potholes and lakes (and even urban lakes and golf courses). During migration, both species can be seen here on southern Vancouver Island.

A flock of 35 Red-winged Blackbirds was recorded, almost certainly migrants from somewhere north; a few of our local-nesting redwings remain around the water hazards on the course.

Large numbers of American Robins continue to feed on this year’s bumper crop of arbutus berries.

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